The Role of the IPCC in the Understanding of Climate Change

Essay, 2016

8 Pages, Grade: 1


Table of Contents


IPCC’s Contribution to Climate Change Debate

Connection between IPCC’s Values and Interests

Personal Appraisal of IPCC




Climate change seems to be a unique phenomenon owing to the numerous controversies surrounding it. This is why there exists a great divide between environmentalists and their challengers over the issue of climate change. To the present, the debate on climate change has taken diverse perspectives in which the critical issue is whether climate change is a factual or false phenomenon. For instance, some groups challenge the science behind global warming, whereas others provide scientific evidence regarding the phenomenon (Gray 2015). In order to enhance understanding over the issue of climate change, a number of international agencies have been formed. One of the most proactive agencies that have immense contribution to the issue is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This scientific intergovernmental body was established in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Following its endorsement by the UN General Assembly the same year, IPCC became one of the organizations under the auspices of the UN. Its core responsibility is to review and assess scientific, socio-economic and technical information related to climate change and prepare assessment reports for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Its reports focus on the risks of human-induced climate change, as well as, its potential socio-economic and environmental impacts (IPCC n.d.). As such, IPCC reports propose the most appropriate mitigation approaches to climate change. Since its inception, IPCC has contributed immensely to the assessment of climate change. Therefore, this paper provides a comprehensive discussion on IPCC’s contribution to the climate change debate. It will also present a critical assessment of the linkage between the agency’s values and interests, its advocacy positions and its use of science.

IPCC’s Contribution to Climate Change Debate

In retrospect, the contribution of IPCC to the debate on climate change can be outlined under its assessment reports. These reports constitute scientific knowledge that document the risk of human-induced climate change. As such, the assessments provide evidence of the phenomenon. This evidence serves as significant support to the arguments put forward by scores of environmentalists, scientists and other experts who admit the influence of human activities towards climate change. It is worth noting that the stance of IPCC forms the basis for climate change mitigation advocacy. In addition, the neutrality of IPCC by being non-policy prescriptive prevents influence from signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. On the other hand, IPCC generates its assessment reports from reviews of existing body of scientific knowledge, and this aspect demonstrates the credibility of the agency’s stance.

So far, IPCC has produced five assessment reports that demonstrate IPCC’s contribution to the climate change debate. The first assessment that was produced in 1990 documented evidence of greenhouse gases increase resulting from emissions. For instance, this report indicated that CO2 contributed to almost 50 percent of greenhouse effect whose ultimate outcome is the increased warming. These conclusions were reached after a comprehensive evaluation of average temperature over the past 100 years that was found to increase from 0.3 to 0.6 0C (IPCC 1992). Despite generating preliminary evidence of anthropogenic influence on climate change, the assessment formed the precepts of the UNFCCC, the treaty that binds governments to climate change perspectives.

On the other hand, the second assessment report produced by IPCC in 1996 explained the scientific basis of climate change. It also explained social and economic dimensions of the phenomenon. For instance, evidence of negative radioactive effects of anthropogenic aerosols was documented (Obasi & Dowdeswell 1995). These facts challenged the argument by conspiracy theorists that held that the phenomenon of global warming was not factual from the scientific perspective.

In the third and fourth assessment reports released in 2001 and 2007, respectively, the impacts, adaptations and mitigation of climate change were discussed. For instance, it was documented that there was a significant increase in average ocean and air temperatures. In addition, snow and ice melting was reported, an aspect that was responsible for the raising of the average sea level. As a result, the panel recommended some mitigation measures including reducing greenhouse gases emissions (Trenberth 2001). By doing so, IPCC shade light on the physical evidence the phenomenon to refute conspiracy hypothesis generated by antagonists of the climate change phenomenon.

Similarly, the fifth assessment report that was produced in 2014 advanced the understanding on the influence of human activities to climate change. For instance, this report indicated that atmospheric concentrations of nitrous oxide, methane and carbon dioxide have increased significantly between 1951 and 2010; thus providing evidence of human influence to climate change (IPCC 2014).

Despite the fact that IPCC does not engage into the direct argument on climate change, generating factual information about climate change has a great impact on the controversial debate. From these assessments, it is apparent that IPCC has contributed immensely to the debate on climate change. Being the leading international scientific body involved in the assessment of climate change information from experts around the globe, IPCC provides evidence that support the existence of human influence on climate change. Foremost, its use of evidence-based scientific approaches in its interpretation of data and prediction of future trends increase its credibility. As such, all supportive arguments are based, wholly or partly, on IPCC’s information reviews and recommendations.

Connection between IPCC’s Values and Interests

From a critical perspective, it is apparent that there is a clear connection between the values and interests of IPCC. This is demonstrated the nature of IPCC that exhibits neutrality to governmental policies and influence. In addition, its diverse nature through which it obtains its data guarantees credibility and rules out any presumable doubt. The fact that IPCC does not carry out its own research studies to generate evidence to their stance on climate change implies that the agency’s interests cannot be influenced through scientific, legislative or mutual approaches. As a core approach of IPCC, assessment of the existing body of knowledge provides the basis for the agency. One outstanding aspect of IPCC is that it does not have any mutual affiliations with the authors of all forms literature that is considered relevant for the assessment of climate change. Instead, the agency relies on peer-reviewed literature to ensure that their assessment is based on credible sources. It is reported that the review of such information ensures comprehensive and objective evaluation of the phenomenon of interest (McIntyre 2008).

Foremost, IPCC produces neutral reports related to the contributory factors and impact of climate change. This value is demonstrated by its non-policy prescriptive aspect. Therefore, the approaches of the agency are not influenced by the respective governments who are signatories to the climate change convention. In addition, the agency exhibits independence from other bodies that would influence the objectives the agency. As such, the procedure of information gathering and assessment is consistent with the interests of the agency, among which is the ways of mitigating the impacts of climate change through human-induced responses. Ordinarily, IPCC’s assessment process comprises of three main groups of experts: Working Group I, Working Group II and Working Group III. In order to merge the agency’s values and objectives, IPCC has adopted evidence-based scientific approaches that enables it maintain its global status (Goudie & Cuff 2002). This is why IPCC’s assessment reports are considered as reliable sources by both the international community and local governments. As such, UN’s and WMO’s member countries adopt IPCC reports in designing mitigation approaches through legislation. Over the years, governments have implemented IPCC recommendations on various aspects of climate change. This indicates that governments uphold the values and interests of the agency. As a result, approaches towards adaptation and mitigation of climate change.


Excerpt out of 8 pages


The Role of the IPCC in the Understanding of Climate Change
Egerton University  (Public Health)
Climate Change
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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417 KB
ipcc, climate change, intergovernmental panel on climate change, united nations environment programme, world meteorological organization
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Patrick Kimuyu (Author), 2016, The Role of the IPCC in the Understanding of Climate Change, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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